Classic. It’s always a rather nebulous term. It’s one of those descriptors that really depends on who you ask.
Personally, I find that ‘classic’, although never really pinning down a particular point in history, always carries a certain sense of weight, and importantly, respect. Classic products of any kind are always treated with reverence, even though they of course, do not often represent the most cutting-edge examples. They are a part of history, and many people would say they are not to be fiddled with. In terms of beer, one can only really pay homage to a classic style by creating as faithful a representation as can be managed. No frills please.
So what do I mean by classic in this case? In short, I really mean pre-World War 2; before the national average beer strength fell to below 4%, as the grain bills were squeezed by necessity. Even Newcastle Brown, widely considered to be the archetypal ‘classic’, was originally brewed to a meaty 6.2% in 1927.
I chose to push Fire Saga to 6% too, and not just because grain is thankfully no longer required for the war effort. That extra weight in the beer provides the perfect platform for a rich, malty profile to really sing. A cask conditioned brown ale in a heavy gauge mug really is a thing of beauty; and in a world of incredible but rapid innovation in beer styles and brewing, it is a welcome reminder that things don’t always have to be so complicated.
Fire Saga is brewed with predominantly Maris Otter malt – famous for it’s high quality, bready and biscuity character. Two different varieties of crystal malt are used in tandem; one lighter and one darker; complimenting each other with notes of sweet caramel, toffee and roasted nuts, whilst ‘brown malt’, a rarely seen variety in modern styles, is employed to lend its unmistakable brown toast crust character. A small amount of chocolate malt is the final piece of the puzzle, deepening the mahogany colour and leaving behind just a touch of roast.
The texture and mouthfeel of the beer is always a big consideration when writing any recipe, but for a brown ale, I would almost go as far as to say that texture and mouthfeel are the defining characteristic – perhaps it’s even more important than flavour when it comes to the overall impression. The ancestral home of the brown ale is the handpull, frothing and foaming into the glass. Although we packaged into keg (and mini-keg for home consumption) as we always do, we have put a sizeable portion into the cellar for cask condition.
Ask yourself these questions: Is it satisfying, but not so heavy as to be a single-pint experience? Is it malty, but with no single malt variety standing out as a big spike in the flavour profile? It is bitter enough, but only enough to balance the sweetness? Is the carbonation level soft enough to be smooth, but present enough to throw a thick, tan coloured head? Finally, do all of these characteristics of the beer succeed in not overwhelming the palate if one was to have… let’s say… your fair share of Fire Saga?
This kind of beer style is somehow both painfully simple and delightfully complicated, when all is considered. You know what? Maybe the needle has spun all the way past ‘hoppy madness’ and right back to the start. Long live craft beer in all its colours, forms and glory.
The name, (although originally inspired by a fictional Icelandic pop group) evokes for me the ‘classic’ late-night conversation between friends, lit by a dying fire. They continue on into the early hours, unaware of the time and uninterrupted by phones; the smooth, rich and malty beer in the glass not asking too much of the mind, just gently helping each hour melt away.
To that end, we proudly launch the good ship Fire Saga (for its second attempt, post-lockdown 2.0), on cask as is proper, at The Weather Station @ Honest this Friday 3rd December 2020 at 5pm.
|Packaging Format:||Available From:|
|30L Key Keg||Direct Trade|
|9 Gallon Cask||Direct Trade|